A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming.
Review: A.J. Fikry is a curmudgeon and a book snob who owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts. He lost his wife, Nic, in a car accident and is grieving, trying to numb his pain by drinking until he passes out. Meanwhile Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe's Tamerlane worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is stolen from his home, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. Both of these events dramatically change and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore.
The next happenstance is the encounter with Amelia Loman, a quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press. The two start off on the wrong foot with their separate tastes in 'literature' but Amelia's tenacity and vibrant, gregarious personality draws Fikry to her. Soon a slow burn, cute romance begins.
Book lovers will find a lot to love about Fikry, particularly his musings on what makes books and reading so pleasurable. Maya is a sweet girl who I would immediately be friends with if I met her in real life and it was a pleasure to see her grow right before our eyes into an intelligent teenager. Lambiase, a local police officer was a nice surprise to see as a reluctant reader who discovers a new passion for reading and learning. While there is really no clear villain in this book, Fikry's brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once best-selling author riding out a descending career arc and serves as a clear contrast of our protagonist.
The plot folds pretty predictably, however the mystery of the stolen Tamerlane book is dropped for majority of the book and pops up suddenly in the last few chapters almost making the incident a moot point since it really did nothing more than spur the change in Fikry's transformation, which I found to be a bit disappointing. Overall The Storied of A.J. Fikry is a quick and enjoyable read with a nice balance of sentimentality, humor, and a touch of bittersweet. I think book lovers and those who love stories about selling books and finding love would find a lot to enjoy here. Don't be surprised to see this book listed for book club titles.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: There is some strong language and a couple of fade to black sex scenes. Recommended for older teens and adults.
If you like this book try: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Shaffer and Annie Barrow or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce